Frequently Asked Questions about Step Plus


(1)   Why does the Step Plus Proposal refer to reviews at 2, 3 and 4-year intervals?

Within the professorial title series, the normative review cycle is 2 years for the assistant and associate levels. After associate step 4, the review cycle occurs every 3 years.  At the professor level, the normative review cycle is 3 years up to step 9 and then the review cycle occurs every 4 years.  At every review the individual may be considered for more than 1 step (1.5 or 2 steps).

(2)   Is a merit increase of 0.5 part of the Step Plus system?

During a variety of discussions across campus, it was determined that the option for 0.5 step increase is not supported at this time.  The 0.5 step option is not part of the Step Plus System.

(3)   With respect to the fixed/normative review period, will the law school’s “Acting Professor” designation be treated the same as “Assistant/Associate Professor” designation, and thus provided a normative review period of two years? 

Yes, this is correct.

(4)   Does the new, normative period of three years begin from a candidate’s last advancement? For instance, will a faculty member who received her last advancement effective July 1, 2013 (assume she is a “full” professor) go up for her next advancement—if any—effective July 1, 2016? For another example, will a faculty member who received her last advancement effective July 1, 2014 (again, assume she is a “full” professor) go up for her next advancement—if any—effective July 1, 2017? 

Yes, this is correct.  Please note that normative time at step is different at the various ranks and steps.  Please see APM 220-18.  The normative time at each step can also be found on the new Step Plus System Salary Tables.

(5)   Does Step Plus change the process for Career Equity Review (CER)? More specifically, can a candidate request a CER coincident with a merit/promotion if the candidate’s surplus is less than one full step (in light of the half-step option under normal review)? Or must the surplus be at least one full step, as under the current system?

The half-step option is not available under the Step Plus System.  The Step Plus System does not change the process for Career Equity Review.  However, if a professor is pursuing a merit from Professor Step 3 to Professor Step 4, they may submit a CER to request additional adjustment by a whole or half-step, so long as the merit increase is at least one whole step (e.g., adjustment to Step 4.5 or 5 would be acceptable considerations for a CER accompanying a merit from Step 3 to Step 4).

(6) **REVISED** Are promotions allowed to accelerate in time and accelerate in step?

No. For example, promotions to Associate and Full Professor can be accelerated in time or can be evaluated according to Step Plus guidelines, but not both. A promotion action that is “accelerated in time” is one for which the candidate is seeking advancement early, without waiting normative time at the current step. “Accelerations in time” should not be confused with on-time Step Plus advancements of more than one step. For example, a 2.0 Step Plus advancement at normative time is not considered an “acceleration in time”, even though a full step has been skipped.

(7)   What is the review period for the first merit after a lateral promotion? 

The review period begins with merit advancement to the overlapping step in the previous rank. 

For example:

  • A professor advances to Assistant Professor, Step 5 effective 7/1/15.  The review period for this action was most likely 7/1/12-6/30/14.
  • Then, in 2015-2016, this Assistant Professor successfully pursues a lateral promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1 effective 7/1/16.  The review period for this action is since terminal degree. 
  • According to APM 220-18-b, time spent at these overlapping steps is “combined”.  Since normative time at these steps is 2 years, this Associate Professor is eligible for Step Plus merit advancement effective 7/1/17.  In this scenario, the review period for the merit from Associate Professor, Step 1 is 7/1/14-6/30/16. 

Note: Policy does allow an alternative review period method with an end date of 12/31.  The review period may be 1/1/15-12/31/16 if the period of 7/1/14-12/31/14 was counted for the merit to Assistant Professor, Step 5.

(8) **NEW** How do you apply Step Plus criteria in the context of the review period for promotions and merit advancement to Step 6 or Above Scale?

Please see the Guide to Step Plus Promotions for information on both promotions and barrier step merit reviews.

(9) **REVISED** Since "accelerations in time" are allowed for promotions, can a faculty member pursue a skip-a-step promotion?

No. A dossier that is being evaluated for a promotion that is accelerated in time (i.e., an “early” promotion that occurs before normative time has elapsed for the next eligible action) will not be considered or approved for advancement of more than one step.



(10)  We understand that the rate of advancement under Step Plus “should be at least as rapid as in our current system, provided that a 1.5 step merit is viewed by faculty as requiring substantially the same record as a well-justified one-year acceleration under our current system.” What procedures, if any, will be instituted to measure the relative pace of advancements going forward compared to (i) historical rates and (ii) other UC campuses? 

The Davis Division of the Academic Senate will review the impact of the Step Plus System. The current proposal is to review two years following implementation to assure the desired efficiency and efficacy is achieved. Evaluating the relative pace of advancement compared to historical rates would be one measure by which we could assess that the personnel process remained effective.

(11)  If a candidate went up for a 1.5 step merit and only received 1, would the candidate be able to appeal?

Yes.  In the Step Plus system the faculty are still requesting an action and if the decision is less than what was requested, they have the right to appeal.  The appeal process is available here:

(12)  If a faculty member received a greater-than-one-step advancement under the Step Plus System during the pilot (through the 2016-2017 review cycle) and later requests a postponement, does the supplement get extended? 

The supplement is awarded only for the period of normative time at the step, so cannot be extended beyond normal time.  The supplement is technically a “bonus” to make up for the fact that we did not allow the faculty member to accelerate in time.  Any extension to the supplement would result in over-payment to the faculty member.

(13)  Why isn't there a Step 1.5 at the Assistant ranks?

There is no Step 1.5 because half-step merits are not an option.  Example: if someone is hired at Step 1, their only option is to merit to Step 2, 2.5, etc.  There was no business reason to include step 1.5 because it would cause confusion since it is not an option.

(14)  Do the responsibilities of the Faculty Personnel Committees (FPC) change under the Step Plus System?

The role of the college and school FPCs does not change.

(15)  What happens if the department recommends a 1.5 step increase, but the FPC does not support the 1.5 increase?

The Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC) recommendation is advisory to the dean. The dean may still approve a 1.5 step increase if the dean feels the record merits a 1.5 step increase. The dean also has the option to approve a 1.0 step increase. However, if the FPC or the dean recommend a 2.0 step increase, the action becomes non-redelegated.

(16)  What happens if a faculty member is eligible for a merit and chooses to defer? 

The faculty member continues to be eligible for a merit every year thereafter until they positively advance to the next step.  Upon advancement, the normative time clock starts over.

(17)  If a faculty member is pursuing an action in normal time, can they opt out of Step Plus? 

No. Every action that is reviewed in normal time, or following a deferral or five-year review, is to be evaluated using the Step Plus system.

(18) Multiple comments and questions were received from faculty contemplating the impact of the Step Plus Proposal on retirement plans. 

Two scenarios were created in an effort to address these questions, available here.

(19) #11 of the Key Features of Step Plus states:  “As with the previous system, first actions since appointment or promotion may go directly to the Dean for decision without FPC review.”  Does this statement hold true if the proposed merit is a 1.5 step increase?

Yes, the dean also has the authority to award a 1.5-step merit in the case of a first action after appointment or promotion and FPC consultation is optional. However, if the Dean disagrees with the department, then the case should be sent to the FPC. Reminder: if the first merit after appointment crosses a barrier step, the action is non-redelegated.

(20) **NEW** If a candidate was awarded a supplement during the pilot and pursues a promotion that is accelerated in time, does the candidate retain the current supplement? Example: Merit to Assoc Prof, Step 4.5 achieved 7/1/2017 and received a Step Plus supplement with an end date of 6/30/2020. The Assoc Prof pursues a promotion that is accelerated in time effective 7/1/2019. Does the supplement end upon promotion or does it pay out through 6/30/2020?

In this scenario, the supplement would be paid out through 6/30/2020 (the end date of the supplement, not the effective date of the accelerated-in-time promotion). Step Plus supplements were awarded during the pilot of the Step Plus system to incentivize candidates to wait normative time and to make up for the fact that they did not pursue an acceleration-in-time during the pilot.

Voting/Action Selection

(21)  What should the department letter recommend if the candidate requests an advancement that is clearly not supported by the faculty vote? In addition, what kind of language should Department Chairs use when writing a department letter under such circumstances?

The departmental letter should only reflect the department’s response to the candidate’s dossier. The following language is offered as an example of how to capture the department recommendation in the department letter:

“The department of ABC recommends that Professor XYZ receive a merit increase/advancement from Professor, Step M to Professor, Step N, effective July 1, 20xx. The details of the departmental vote are summarized below.”

The candidate may make a case for their desired step when they prepare their candidate’s statement.

(22)  Do department voting procedures need to change under the Step Plus System?

Departments select their own voting procedures and processes. The Committee on Academic Personnel reviews proposed changes in procedures for conformity to Senate Bylaw 55, but those changes most often address the issue of which department members are eligible to vote on which academic personnel actions.

Under the previous system, department faculty expressed support for a colleague's proposed acceleration by voting "YES" on a dossier that is submitted in advance of the normative review interval. Under the Step Plus System, all merits will be reviewed at the normative interval, and so departments will need to consider how they wish to express support (or the lack thereof) for a merit of greater than one step (i.e., an acceleration in performance/step, rather than an acceleration in time).

(23)  Who decides how many steps the candidate will advance?

All packets will be considered for acceleration in step at each review by the Department.  Following review, the Department will vote on whether a 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 step advancement will be recommended.

(24)  Who decides who goes up for promotion?

A faculty member can come up for promotion when they are ready or when they feel that their record supports the action.  Assistant professors must promote no later than their seventh year, unless they received an extension on the clock under the Work Life Program.

(25)  How should the department handle support for a barrier step under Step Plus? 

Example 1: A professor is eligible for a normal merit from Step 8. Prior to the department vote, the dossier should be prepared for the potential entire review period required of the barrier step, excluding extramural letters. If the result of the department vote is supportive of the Above Scale action, extramural letters will need to be obtained and the department will need to revote on the new dossier

Example 2: A professor is eligible for a normal merit from Step 4. Prior to the department vote, the dossier should be prepared for the potential entire review period required of the barrier step. If the result of the department vote is supportive of the Step 6 action, the department letter should be very clear in specifically addressing the Step 6 criteria, and should provide the sorts of information that were previously gathered from the outside letters, while making specific reference to the standards applying to teaching, service and research as described in the APM.

(26) What happens if the department sends to the dean(s) a recommendation that is a redelegated action and a committee or dean makes a recommendation that crosses a barrier step? For example: An academic merit action was sent to the dean’s office as a 1.0-step merit from 8.5-9.5. The FPC recommended a 1.5 step increase to Above Scale, making the action non-redelegated. The action was returned to the department to prepare the dossier for Above Scale, obtain extramural letters, and re-vote.

In these cases, the redelegated committee review plays a very important role in changing the course of the action from redelegated to non-redelegated across a barrier step.

When the action is returned to the department, the FPC recommendation should be shared with the candidate to explain why the action is being returned to the department and to inform the candidate that it is up to them if they would like to share the FPC recommendation with department colleagues. Since department colleagues do not normally have access to committee recommendations in the personnel files of their colleagues and the chair normally only sees the committee recommendation(s) after the final decision is made, it is the responsibility of the candidate to share that recommendation with their colleagues, if the candidate wishes to do so.

If the candidate does share the FPC recommendation with the department, it should be appended to the department letter. If the candidate chooses not to share the FPC recommendation with department colleagues, the original FPC recommendation should be appended to the Dean’s recommendation on the non-redelegated action. Regardless of whether or not the candidate shares the FPC recommendation with the department, the action needs to be resubmitted as a non-redelegated action.

(27)  An Associate Professor, Step 3 is eligible for promotion to the full rank. The choices are 1 step, 1.5 steps, 2 steps, no, and abstain. What does 1 step mean – Associate Professor, Step 4 or full Professor, Step 1?

In this situation, it will be critical for the department chair to consult with the candidate to discuss advancement options and the merits of the case. If both the promotion and merit options are to be considered, the faculty must be informed explicitly whether they are voting on promotion or on a merit. If the faculty are voting on a promotion from Associate Professor, Step 3, an increase of 1.0 step would result in a proposed promotion to Professor, Step 1.  If the faculty do not support a promotion, then a separate vote would need to be recorded  on a merit increase. Departments may consider designing a special ballot with more options for this situation, so long as its format is consistent with the more typical department ballot.

(28) An Assistant Professor, Step 5 is up for promotion at year 7. One option is normally a lateral promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1. How is this indicated on a ballot?

It is a good idea to add a lateral promotion as an option when a faculty member previously merited to an overlapping step.  The ballot may look like the following…

  • 2.0 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 3)  
  • 1.5 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 2.5)
  • 1.0 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 2)
  • Lateral Promotion (Associate Prof, Step 1)
  • No support
  • Abstain

Note: Associate Professor, Step 1.5 is not a promotion option as an increase of 0.5 steps is not an option under Step Plus.  There is a guide to promotions and the role of overlapping steps available here.

(29) We have a faculty member at Assistant Professor, Step 3 (or Associate Professor Step 2.0) who wants to pursue a promotion action. Is this allowed?

Candidates at Assistant rank, Steps 1.0-3.5 and Associate rank, Steps 1.0-2.5 are not eligible for promotions that are accelerated in time. Occasionally, there may be a case where an Assistant Professor, Step 3 or an Associate Professor, Step 2 may seek advancement after spending normative time (2 years) at their current step.

Promotion eligibility when a candidate HAS spent normative time at their current step:

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Assistant to Associate rank when the candidate has spent normative time at step

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Associate to Full rank when the candidate has spent normative time at step

We have determined our Assistant Professor, Step 3 has spent normative time at their current step. How should the department vote?

If the candidate has spent normative time at Assistant Professor, Step 3 (or Associate Professor, Step 2) the action is NOT considered an acceleration in time, and should be reviewed following Step Plus guidelines. The department should vote on all possible outcomes:

1. 2.0-step promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1
2. 2.0-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 5
3. 1.5-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 4.5
4. 1.0-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 4
5. No advancement
6. Abstain

What if the Assistant Professor, Step 3 in question has not spent normative at their current step?

Candidates can request an early promotion without waiting for normative time at their current step, but there will be only two possible advancement outcomes: promotion to the lateral step, if applicable, or 1.0-step promotion.

Promotion eligibility when a candidate HAS NOT spent normative time at their current step:
Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Assistant to Associate rank when the candidate has not spent normative time at step

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Associate to Full rank when the candidate has not spent normative time at step

Exception: Candidates who have been at the Assistant rank for 7 years and must be considered for promotion before normative time has elapsed at the current step (a “technical acceleration”) may still be considered for Step Plus, and the department should vote on all possible outcomes.

(30)  Should we require an explanation for a “no” vote on 1.5 steps and 2.0 steps, or just in the case where the regular merit is not supported?

Only when casting a “no” vote is an explanation required. However, faculty members should be able to add comments whenever they support or do not support any type of action.

(31)  When does the chair consult with the candidate? 

In some circumstances (e.g. Question #21, above), it will be important for the Chair to discuss voting options with the candidate before the department vote. However, we generally recommend that voting faculty should be given the opportunity to vote on all common options under Step Plus (0, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 steps). Prior to the faculty vote, the candidate prepares the Candidate’s Statement to make their best case for the action they think they deserve. The department letter should make a recommendation based on the vote and post-vote consultation between the Chair and the candidate.

(32)  What if only half the voting faculty support a 2.0 step merit increase?  As chair, what advice do I give to the candidate? 

In scenarios like this, we would encourage faculty to pursue the 2.0 step merit increase.  The chair can remind the candidate that either a 1.5-step increase or a 2.0-step increase represents an excellent outcome! 

(33)  What is the role of the faculty member in terms of their willingness to self-promote or their tolerance for risk?

The department voters will have access to the record, including the candidate’s statement, in which the candidate should make his or her case for an action felt to be deserved. The department letter must recommend an action based on the vote. If the vote is divided and does not clearly imply a single recommendation, the candidate’s preference and discussion with the chair can play a significant role in the recommendation. 

(34)  Does the candidate choose in advance what the faculty will vote on in the department? 

This is determined by department practice.  However, to be consistent with the aims of the Senate’s Step Plus resolution, we recommend that each department adopt a ballot that captures most options under Step Plus (2.0-step advancement, 1.5-step advancement, 1.0-step advancement, no advancement, or abstention).  Ballots that list all options and ask each voter to select the advancement option that is most appropriate allow the department faculty to vote only once and also ensures that acceleration in step is considered for every dossier. 

(35)  Can the department recommend retroactive under Step Plus? 

No.  All reviewers and decision-makers shall evaluate the case using the Step Plus system and consider the candidate for a merit of greater than one step rather than recommending retroactive advancement. 

(36)  How do joint department recommendations work? 

Just as in the previous system, the joint department may make a recommendation that differs from that of the home department.  However, the primary department should update the proposed status on the Action Form to reflect the highest advancement recommendation from any of the candidate’s departments (home department, secondary department, etc.). The proposed action then determines the delegation of authority.

(37)  As a member of a review committee (such as an FPC or CAP), what do I do with regards to department-level voting on actions that may or may not come to my committee for review? 

The FPC or CAP member shall vote only once, and that member shall decide if that will be at the department level or the FPC/CAP level, on a case-by-case basis. If the FPC or CAP member votes at the department level on a particular action, then the member cannot vote at the FPC or CAP level on that action, but can still participate in the committee discussion. If the FPC or CAP member chooses to recuse themselves from voting at the department level, it is possible that this member will not have the opportunity to vote on the action, depending on the outcome of the home and joint department recommendations.

Departments may choose to allow CAP members to vote on the 1.0- and 1.5-step advancement options, with the expectation that they will recuse themselves from voting on a 2.0-step advancement. FPC members could be allowed to vote on the 2.0-step advancement with the expectation that they recuse themselves from the 1.0- and 1.5-step advancement options. When this occurs, the department letter should clearly identify abstentions that apply to a specific advancement option.

(38)  How does the candidate’s advancement selection on the “Notification of advancement eligibility for Academic Federation ” impact (a) the recommendation on the Action Form, and (b) the department vote?

This form shall not be provided to the department reviewers prior to the department vote. Once the candidate has made a selection, the department must vote on all Step Plus advancement options, and the voting results are included in the department letter. However, if the candidate elected to pursue only 1.0 step on the notification of eligibility, the department letter recommendation must be for 1.0 step only. The department letter should also explain that the 1.0 step recommendation is driven by the candidate’s selection, due to funding availability. The action form “proposed status” section should also reflect a 1.0 if this is what the candidate has selected.

(39)  Can the candidate still pursue advancement even if the department majority votes against advancement? What is entered as the proposed step on the Action Form?

After the results of the department vote are shared with the candidate, the candidate retains the option to pursue the action even if advancement is not supported by the majority of department voters. In this case, the Action Form should be presented as a 1.0-step advancement. Alternatively, the candidate may defer consideration for advancement by requesting a deferral, unless policy requires promotion or five-year review.


Questions received during the review by the Davis Representative Assembly of the Academic Senate may be viewed on the Senate page at: